CHAMPAIGN – Unit 4’s district superintendent says she’s dropping a controversial proposal for a campus swap between the Garden Hills elementary school and the International Prep Academy.
A statement posted Friday afternoon (Jan. 10) on the Champaign Unit 4 website and Facebook page states: “Based on feedback from various stake holders over the last several weeks, Superintendent Dr. Susan Zola has suggested to the Board of Education that the District discontinue conversations focused on switching students/staff of both Garden Hills and IPA. After listening to community and staff input, Dr. Zola is recommending that the District focus on each schools, at the current location, in addressing campus needs over the next several months.
Dr. Zola had suggested the campus swap in December. It would move IPA, a K-5 bilingual program with majority Hispanic enrollment, to the Garden Hills building on Champaign’s north side, where it would have room to expand to include middle school students. Meanwhile, the Garden Hills school, a majority black school with more than 200 open seats, would move to the IPA building on West Kirby Avenue.
Zola had argued that the change would help Unit 4 address requests from parents to expand the IPA program and to address a lack of capacity in the district’s two middle schools.
But supporters of the Garden Hills school, known as Garden Hills Academy, opposed the idea. They packed a public meeting on the proposed campus swap at Garden Hills on Tuesday. (Another public meeting was held at IPA on Thursday). Many said they feared the campus swap would not benefit Garden Hills’ mostly black and low-income students. The opponents included State Rep. Carol Ammons and former Champaign mayoral candidate Azar Cobbs.
A message posted by the United Garden Hills Neighborhood Association on its Facebook page thanked Supt. Zola “for understanding the needs of both schools and recognizing that this was NOT in the best interest of the children”. But a follow-up message cautioned that discussion of the campus swap had only “been tabled for now. So it is up to us to make sure our voice continues to be heard”.